AP NEWS

Record turnout boosts annual disability expo

April 7, 2019

HUNTINGTON — What started out as a necessity spotted by four local mothers when searching for the best available needs for their children has, over 12 years now, developed into a bustling, wall-to-wall expo serving those with special needs.

More than 500 people turned out Saturday for the 12th annual One4All Disability Expo at Huntington High School — a one-day, one-stop superstore for parents and caretakers to browse in person all the local resources available for any special need.

With 75 vendors attending — including 13 new this year — the 2019 showing was the expo’s largest both in terms of attendees and services showcased.

“We’re literally just four moms,” said Michelle Norweck, who organizes the expo with Shellie Mellert, Marci Osburn and Jessie Slash. “We have no budget, and we rely entirely on donations. But the community has always responded positively.”

The annual event is free and open to the public and features vendors from across the Tri-State offering information as well as games, music and free food throughout the day. Vendors are selected to cover as many offerings as possible, from service dogs to comforting weighted blankets to special-needs sports leagues — all for adults and children alike.

New vendors this year included Herd of Love from Marshall University’s Office of Disability Services, the Luke Stone Illumination Fund, CARES/Bright Futures and Service Station LLC.

It’s founded on solving a problem those original four mothers experienced — bringing all the services available in the community under one roof for people to browse face-to-face — and offers something that browsing a website or brochure simply can’t duplicate.

“Being able to talk directly to some of these folks would put me more at ease to know what they do and offer, and it really does help to build that network of support around what a person with disabilities requires,” Norweck said.

One in five West Virginians has a disability, the highest population percentage in all 50 states. By contrast, Utah has the lowest percentage — around one in 10. Norweck noted that around 17.5 percent of current Cabell County students have a learning disability, up from 15 percent during the 2015-16 school year.

For those who could not attend, all vendors are registered with their information and contact numbers online at One4AllDisabilities.org.